If disaster strikes, will you be ready?

May 13, 2011 | Procedures

Editor’s Note – September 6, 2017: With Hurricane Harvey striking the Gulf Coast of the United States last week, Hurricane Irma headed through the Carribean and potentially up the East Coast this week, and wildfires burning across the western part of the United States, disaster preparedness and planning is top of mind for many.

As you watch the news stories on television, follow stories online, or see your friends and colleagues posting updates, ask yourself: What information, materials, resources, etc. would I need if I were in that exact situation right now myself? Make a list. Then start creating the procedures and checklists for your home, office, or team. When disasters strike, those who are prepared to act quickly and with precision have the best chances for long term survival. Will you be ready?

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As I watch the television news with all of the Mississippi River floodings this week, my mind flashes back to the spring of 2008 when the flood waters ripped through the city where I live.  It’s truly mind-boggling to grasp how much damage water can do when it’s associated with a flood. While my home was safe from the flood waters in 2008, many of the companies that I supported were directly hit. (My office was located in the flooded 8-story building pictured here. The entire first floor was FULL of water!)  I watched in amazement as some companies quickly pulled together their vital files and computers and set up operations in remote facilities without any interruption of service.  Others were not so prepared.  Because of delayed responses, lack of planning, and no processes and procedures for this type of event, some companies lost way more than others.  But at the heart of most disaster recovery operations – no matter which company you looked at – were the administrative professionals!  If a disaster were to strike your company, would you be prepared to step into a leadership role of guiding and supporting them through the disaster response?

Disasters come in all forms and levels of severity: floods, fires, power outages, ice storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, server failures, hackers, burst pipes, and many more.  Some disasters are worse than others.  Each disaster requires a different type of response effort.  But companies that successfully recover from disasters are typically companies that have prepared for them, to begin with. Here are a couple of pretty alarming statistics: 

  • “Small businesses that don’t have a plan in place generally don’t survive after a disaster, whether it’s a flood or a tornado. We see that anywhere from 40-60 percent of those that are hit like that simply don’t come back to business,” said David Paulison, former executive director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2009/11/11/experts-say-small-firms-lag-in-disaster-planning 
  • Following a disaster, statistics show ninety percent of companies fail within a year unless they can resume operations within five days. 

If you’re an employee in of these companies, lack of planning could quite possibly put everyone out of a job.

Whether your company currently has a formal disaster recovery plan in place or not, here are some things you can do right now to proactively prepare yourself and your company if disaster strikes.

  1. Find out if your company has a disaster recovery plan.  If so, ask if you can get a copy of the plan.  Read it and familiarize yourself with what it contains.  If you have questions, ask them.  You may very well identify gaps or holes that should be addressed.  Don’t be afraid to speak up.
  2. Educate yourself on Business Continuity Planning (BCP) and Disaster Recovery Planning.  I’d start with these awesome sites:
  3. Download, print, and assemble in a binder all of the free templates and files from http://www.preparemybusiness.org/. Use these as your personal guide to creating your own disaster recovery plan/kit.  Even if your company has a “master disaster recovery plan”, you still should create an individual plan for your position/team if one doesn’t already exist.
  4. Start creating a disaster recovery plan for yourself and your immediate team. For starters, you’ll want to include:
    • Emergency Contact Lists – company executives, team members, home phones, cell phones, email addresses, etc.
    • Key Vendors/Suppliers Contact Lists – names, emails, office phones, cell phones, etc.
    • List of vital files, paperwork, equipment, machines you’d need to work remotely
    • Contingency plans for fire vs. water vs. power loss emergencies. E.g. In case of fire, you might need to act or do things differently than you would with a power outage.
  5. Share your plan with your team and get their feedback and ideas on how to make it better or more complete.  Once you’ve taken the initiative to get things rolling, stick with it until you have it fully assembled.  Then make sure everyone on your team knows the procedures and has access to the information you’ve assembled in case of emergency!

You don’t have to be given the directive from your executive to develop your own disaster recovery plan. Take the initiative and create something on your own.  It doesn’t have to be perfect. But you MUST have a plan.  The admins at the center of keeping business operations running smoothly with flood waters raging through our city were the ones who acted quickly and with purpose. They were the ones who knew they needed to get to Sam’s Club before every other business in town to purchase folding tables to serve as makeshift desks for the next six months. They were the ones who had administrative procedures binders ready with emergency contact lists and key supplier contacts at their fingertips. They were the administrative professionals who didn’t wait for someone to tell them it needed to be done…they just did it! 

If disaster strikes, will you be ready?

© 2011 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker, and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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